Thoughts on language-specific and crosslinguistic entities

  • 1 Institutionen för lingvistik, Stockholms universitet, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
Östen Dahl


This article discusses questions arising in connection with Martin Haspelmath’s proposal to distinguish between “descriptive categories” at the language-specific level and “comparative concepts” at the crosslinguistic level, where the latter cannot be seen as either crosslinguistic categories or category types (). It is argued that comparative concepts may be better subsumed under the notion of “generalizing concept”, which is not tied to any specific level of analysis, and that the distinction between what is language-specific and what is crosslinguistic is not absolute. Further, it is shown that crosslinguistic pattern clusters as identified in what is here called “bottom-up typology” meshes well with the homeostatic property cluster approach to biological species.

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Linguistic Typology publishes research on linguistic diversity and unity. It welcomes articles that report empirical findings about crosslinguistic variation, advance our understanding of the patterns of diversity, or refine typological methodology.